Dear Members of the Harvard Chan School Community,
When George Floyd was killed last year, our School community grieved the tragic loss of yet another Black American at the hands of police. We joined millions of protesters around the world in declaring that Black Lives Matter. And we felt the urgency and the weight of responsibility in our work to advance public health and well-being—because we know that racism is a public health crisis.
Today, a measure of justice for George Floyd was finally served in a Minneapolis courtroom. But our work remains as urgent as ever—as we were forcefully reminded last week by the tragic deaths of two young men of color, Daunte Wright and Adam Toledo. Black Americans in particular face a 400-year legacy of discrimination in medicine and across the many social determinants of health. This leads to higher rates of illnesses like heart disease and asthma—and, as we’ve seen all too tragically this year, COVID-19.
As I’ve witnessed firsthand from students, faculty, and staff across our School community, George Floyd’s legacy now includes a new generation of leaders who will work to right these wrongs—and pursue the values of equality, justice, and inclusion in every facet of their lives and work. And in the face of profound challenges for our country and our field, all of you give us reason for hope.
Michelle A. Williams, ScD
Dean of the Faculty, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
Angelopoulos Professor in Public Health and International Development,
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Harvard Kennedy School